Living The Football Dream In Barcelona

Today is a very important day for me as I write to you about what I’m doing in the city of Barcelona. I now live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and living the dream. For many years I’ve been travelling and playing football in Australia and around the world. My experiences after many years of playing professional football, could well be described as unbelievable.

I have also been coaching for 10 years.  My philosophy on coaching… is very different to the normal line of thinking, as I firmly believe training twice a week and waiting for the weekend to win a match is not what professional football is all about. Coaching is so much more than that, it’s about life and the lessons we learn every day that go into making our football careers flourish, in so many different ways.

 Here….there is only one predominant sport, football consumes most people’s lives.  To be really good at it, you must sacrifice & put your life to it.Barcelona has been producing world class footballers for many years, so as a coach, I knew that I would have to put myself right in the heart of where the best are plying their trade.

 The level of football education here, is very high. You must know your work and be able to deliver your message perfectly and professionally. The world’s best players, are technically proficient but not all of them are capable on both sides of their body. The reason for that is simple. They haven’t been taught about the biomechanics that go into striking a ball with the correct technique from very young..

 This is apparent right around the world, in fact many coaches here will not attempt to coach players in these areas. Simply put, it’s a case of either you can or you can’t.  If you can’t, it’s goodbye and they wish you the very best.

 However, this is the area that I have chosen to specialize in, that and helping to make sure that I develop a player’s skillset. As a result, I have managed to create great interest from a host of professional clubs in Barcelona. These then are the difficult questions that you need to answer.

  • How do you develop technique?
  • How do you develop both feet?
  • What type of training do you need to do?
  •  Do the exercises differ with age?
  •  Which coach should you be working with?
  • How many days a week should you train?
  • Which club should you go to?
  • What do you really need to do on a daily basis, to reach your full potential as a footballer?

 The reason you need to answer questions like these, is because when your child doesn’t become a professional footballer, he or she will ask why?  “I trained hard but why?” Well in school, you are there for 12 years learning nearly every day.

 We all accept this as right but when you tell the player or their parents that they need to work most days, they don’t believe it! I am now working with prominent football coaches, players and football scientists and development personnel and they all want to know, how I go about teaching and most importantly how I answer these questions.

All in all, it’s a dream come true for me.

But I have a lot of work to do even in a country where the world’s best players showcase their skills.  Simply put, they too need to continue to develop, both as players and as people.

 For now it’s goodbye from my new home.

 PS:  Remember, keep practicing because if you do, you never know what can happen especially if you’ve practiced properly for many years.

You never know, you may just realize your dream…. just as I have mine.

What size football should I use?

When weighing up what size ball kids should use when their playing or training, there are guidelines we follow which we assume are correct. In my experience as a coach and as a professional player I found that one of the most noticeable problems was that kids started using size 5 balls too early. To develop perfect technique, young players must have the strength to execute, therefore may require a lighter ball in the initial stages until enough strength is developed and this is irrespective of age.

Use of the head and chest are areas where this is very important. There is now evidence that football players have suffered brain damage through a career of heading the ball many many times. Maybe in the future there will be guidelines concerning young players continually heading heavy footballs.

IMG_0167

For example it may be better to teach younger players to head and chest the ball with a football that was similar to a volleyball in weight. As technique improves with the lighter ball, that would help to avoid the fear or injuries that may occur in these early lessons, especially with young boys and girls. We know that this is maybe a factor for loosing a lot of young people to our sport.

Changes have been made to improve the safety in our sport, i.e the tackle from behind, double footed and studs up tackle and we may need also require thought put into changing the early development of players. We have developed into a country where life is too easy and we are going to be by-passed by countries with a better work ethic due to their culture or a more focussed approach because sport can get them out of poverty. If changes are not made quickly we will increasingly become a country of spectators. There are examples in other sports where a scientific approach is taken and Australians are no longer winning medals or championships and this is hindering our progress.

If the Institutes of sport are not involved in the early stages of sports player’s development then there will be no chance of the player’s reaching their true potential. As a country with a small population if we don’t make major changes we will be importing more foreign players and no matter how great a coach or manager is the players won’t have the technical skills and physical fitness for these people to work with effectively. You only have to watch the EPL (England) to see how many local players are not being developed. They are scarce and so only the best foreign players will play because their skill levels are greater. We also make the same comments over and over suggesting that our players “first touch” is poor or that we are not creating chances or that we didn’t take our opportunities. These comments come back to a lack of technical ability or lack of football intelligence. Skill creates more intelligence in the player.

I have many points to cover so stay tuned for my next blog.

 

Why are our players not taught how to shoot correctly and don’t practice shooting enough?

I have just moved into my 3rd week living in Barcelona and I am feeling very settled. I have met some very interesting people.

I watched a game that the under 14’s played and it was great to see, as it seemed like they were conditioned to think and play exactly the way Barcelona want  everyone to play at their club.

Barcelona have created a phenomenon where everyone wants to play possession type football. To do this there are many skills you need to attain first. I would like to share some of my experiences to help parents, their children and even our A-league players to understand what their up against.

If you want to be a professional player and go overseas to play then there are certain things you really need to know.

Firstly do not base your ideals or paradigms on making a team. Know that there are many skills you have to develop to play top grade football. Therefore don’t believe that you are going to take the place of someone that already lives and applies their trade in the country you want to go to. You must be so much better than what they’ve got and generally we are not. In Spain they develop a style of play that is quite simple but not necessarily easy to learn. As the great Johan Cruyff said” The simplest pass is often the most difficult to understand.”

What do you actually have to do to become the best possible player? Well in many jobs there are curriculum’s or a syllabus that you must follow that’s been tried and tested for many years. E.g. If you want to become a doctor you must study biology or you can’t become a doctor. In football for many this is not as simple as it seems. Which academy do you go to, which team should you play for? Who’s got contacts so my kid can play or which agent has the best contacts overseas? It becomes such a stressful time for parents and all involved to find the best possible solution for the player. The question is are they capable of making any decision involving football? That is what you must ask yourself because people in Spain who make football decisions have dedicated their life to the game so they get it right more times than not.

We are like a wave coming in and going out and have struggled to consistently produce high quality players. The difference between our best ever players and the rest is generally their ability to score and that’s what Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka could do on a regular basis. They are usually the highest paid players and for many reasons. Goal scorers are a rare commodity and cost an enormous amount of money!! They are usually the most technically gifted players because they can manoeuvre the ball any way they want or need to. MANOEUVRE… (A movement or series of moves requiring skill and care.)

So here lies the question, why are our players not taught how to shoot correctly and why are they not practicing shooting enough?

UD-Almeria-v-FC-Barcelona-La-Liga-2317040

Don’t believe that it is practiced here in Barcelona at the junior set ups because it’s not but because they have a choice of the world’s aspiring footballers they will sift through and pick the ones they need. Sounds quite extra ordinary but true. Barcelona forked out 70 million EURO for Neymar and pay Messi around 15 million euro a year just in wages. Now you are starting to understand what’s really happening. Everyone is being taught how to play and keep possession but the most important skill that decides a game of any nature takes THE BACK SEAT!! Take any sport you want and execution is critical. In Golf everyone is aware of the term “Drive for show and putt for Dough!” Well that’s how it is, so ask Tiger Woods because if he’s not putting well he’s not WINNING!!!!

I have already enjoyed working with new clients here in Barcelona and after careful consideration they have understood how necessary it is for them to learn the art of shooting. Their answer is that we just assume that well learn while we play but that is so far from the truth. The number one reason why players don’t shoot has nothing to do with their ability initially but psychology!  It’s the FEAR of missing that stops someone from shooting and that’s a fact! Now to help someone with that skill they would have to start practicing 2-6 hours per week. Sounds too much but there are so many different techniques and processors to developing this skill. One common problem I find with players is their ankle strength especially with their opposite foot. Learning how to kick a ball properly must start young so that the ankle has time to strengthen with every shot but because most children generally kick with one foot this becomes almost impossible. Did you know that one of the most important steps to kicking a ball well comes from your ability to swing your arms correctly?

Lionel-Messi-630x419

Once you learn how to shoot correctly on both feet you will definitely improve all aspects of your game I know for sure. Technique holds precedent for any skill initially but then once you accomplish the basics then you move into new territory which many may not think about but that’s the tactical area of shooting. What shot do I take, using what technique depending on the circumstances. The perks of being a great shooter is that you are in more demand and can earn great sums of money!! An example of this is Steve Gerrard an attacking midfield scoring machine. Now during his best days he was worth 30 million pounds easily where another midfielder say like Lucas for Liverpool would be worth 10 million pounds. The reason??? Quite simple, he scores goals and goals for a team, coach, club and fan is considered to be worth its weight in GOLD.

So my advice to anyone would be carefully plan your football career and don’t waste money on overseas trips until you receive expert advice on whether you are ready to play at a higher standard. Train much more regularly on your own but seek advice as to what you really need to do. It must be specific, monitored and measured so you know where you stand and where you’re heading towards. Look at it like schooling, so give yourself the time to become the best possible player. It is a huge commitment but so is Barcelona’s new training campus worth 77 million EUROS. This is serious business so if you want to make it begin to train the house down and learn how to shoot. Every player should know how to execute and if not why not? In life it’s about having a go and if you miss you will be pleased to know that you can have another go. It’s worth every cent!! I look forward to writing my next blog so stay tuned as I have something very exciting to share with everyone.

 

The pessimist complains about the missed shot;

The optimist expects his luck to change;

The realist adjusts his technique.

 

Con Boutsianis on shots for goal

Bye from Barcelona

Adios and Muchos Gracias

 

 

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad, loving the city of Barcelona famous for football!

My first few days in Barcelona have been quite extraordinary. Firstly the city is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. You can’t help but not love this city. The architecture is magnificent keeping its traditional style but with the latest technologies and systems to keep the everything motoring on a daily basis. I have been walking everywhere so I don’t miss much. Very exciting.

Leading up to the game I had purchased the best seats possible. Real Sociedad had come into this season playing well and have built a good team. They hit the crossbar in the first few minutes with a venomous shot outside the box but from there it was pretty much all Barca.
Neymar celebrated his first goal for the club and it couldn’t have been any easier for the latest signing. A tap in was all that was required but then the machine was fully operational. If Barca scores first it becomes such an enormous task to get back in the game. You just wont get the ball back. Although when they loose the ball the closest man to the ball will press then a second then a third. they overwhelmed you with such fierce numbers.
Neymar then made a great run down the left and clipped in a stunning cross to see the messiah Messi dive to head the ball down for Barcas 2nd goal and Messis 1st. Its almost impossible for the opponents to know who to mark as they are all so dangerous. Soon after Messi hit the bar and post  after making one of his excellent runs into the box. How that ball stayed out was just unbelievable but as it got cleared Sergio Busquets ran in and hit a great shot with his left foot into the bottom corner. My tip was 3 nil for Barca so i was on the money very early.
 
barca1
At three nil after just 30 minutes you thought that it could be an avalanche but Barca just relaxed and kept the ball. One thing to note is that the fans are so involved in the game. they are very well educated and will let the referee know exactly what he has done wrong. its instantaneous. Real Sociedad continued to keep trying and in the second half got their reward. They are a good team and work so hard to try and keep barca at bay but its just almost impossible. Soon Messi went on another little run got to the bi line and drove the ball fiercely across the goal for Pedro to slot home. 
Messi does not do much for most of the game but picks his moments to destroy you in seconds. Although his team play is excellent he keeps the ball moving quickly without him having to move much. He is at natures best making runs that inevitably end up in a goal or close to it. Its electric.
 
I can go on and on but the game ended up at 4=1 to Barca. If you want to live and love football then visit the Camp Nou now while you still have the opportunity to see skill at the highest level. Its like poetry. Beautiful to the naked eye and the people of Barcelona insist that they come and watch only beautiful football. Its all about how you think first and that for me is evident of what players Barca produce at their club. I love Australia but I really feel at home in Barcelona….Bye until next time….

Buying players is easy for Football club billionaires but it does not guarantee success!

Having spent the last month in Greece I have had time to relax. Crete was one of my favourite spots to visit and is where my fathers sister live.  It also boasts many  of the most beautiful beaches in the world and produces some of, if not the best foods in the world.

We all grow up in different parts of the world still playing the same game but the culture in every country is different. In Greece at the moment the country still faces harsh times in relation to their financial position so inevitably the football suffers somewhat. Clubs have been forced to stop paying the salaries from the past just to survive. Giants Panathinaikos who have probably been the most successful club in Europe for many years have lost their billionaire club owner due to political reasons and so the club has resorted to playing very young players. Results are not there anymore.

On the other hand Olympiacos is very strong with their billionaire owner Marinakis who is in the shipping game has set up a very strong club with plenty of resources and money. Although the club does well internally, having won maybe 7 titles in 10 years they still have not shown any progress in European competitions. Buying players is easy for people who have money at their disposal but it does not guarantee success. The true test is how you intergrate your players to perform well in European competitions. This definitely shows how well a club is doing from many prespectives. Billionaires must trust the people running their club. Then they have to choose a coach. Then he has his support staff which normally he chooses. If that does not work then the whole process starts again hoping that they may get the chemistry right but that is normally very difficult to achieve. Producing the players for your own club is the most difficult but this is why Barcelona is way ahead of the rest for the time being but that took them more than 20 years to develop.

Soon to report from the major football countries.. Stay tuned and keep practicing!!!

Living and breathing Football in Tripoli, Greece!

Hi to all

So far I’ve been in Greece for six days and loving everyday. I have trained two new clients in Tripoli Greece and it has given me an insight as to what they are teaching the young footballers of Greece. Speaking to some parents the feedback is that they have not been taught in the manner which I approach any player when coaching them and focusing on the technical skills required to play the game at a professional level.

Although there are now many academies around Greece the masses seem to be living the dream of becoming a professional player realising the amount of work required to reach this goal. However, the great thing is that the players are enthusiastic about their football however it doesn’t seem to me that they know exactly the process it takes or the time, education, mentoring and training over a ten year period that has to be invested to become the best possible footballer.

blog

This is apparent as I speak to parents and their hope is that their child does make it, but how? My job is to educate the parents that would like the advice and most importantly will action it! “You can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink.” One thing that is great in Europe for me is the sport that we call Football is prominent! People are living and breathing this game everyday. Unfortunately, in Australia that is not the case but it is what it is. One of my friends in Australia says that if you want to become GREAT, you must live it night and day! More updates soon and for now goodbye as I am off to enjoy some beach football!